To say Monday’s night’s news that the White Sox are shipping Peter Bourjos to Tampa Bay in exchange for cash considerations sent shockwaves through the White Sox little corner of the internet would be … well, I’m not going to lie it’d be a pretty big overstatement.
But the White Sox decision to send away a player many had pegged to start in center field on Opening Day did come as a bit of a surprise. It was surprising from the perspective of the White Sox in that this move, coupled with Charlie Tilson’s injury, would seem to signal the team is planning to head north with both Leury Garcia and Jacob May. It’s surprising from the Rays’ perspective in that it showed a team wanted Bourjos.
The deal in and of itself amounts to little more than the Rays jumping to the front of the line in the waiver order. Tampa needed outfield depth in the wake of Colby Rasmus’s injury that will see the outfielder start the season on the disabled list and apparently had their sights set on Bourjos to fill that role. The White Sox, conversely, made a decision to go with youth and, instead of cutting Bourjos, sent him to the Rays for the oft-traveled cash.
We’ll likely have a more firm idea of what the White Sox are planning in coming days — maybe Tuesday morning when the trade is announced — but unless there’s another move in the works, one should be able to logically assume that both Garcia and May will break camp with the Sox, given that they’re the only two players left in camp who can play center field.
The logic behind turning the page from Bourjos is sound. The White Sox talked a big game all winter about going all-in on this rebuild and, while the outgoing player in the deal isn’t one that’s going to turn any heads, the decision to turn the position over to this duo, either one or both, is one you could adequately describe as bold.
Garcia is the more well known of the pair. He’s garnered 331 plate appearances across parts of four seasons with the Sox since hew as acquired for Alex Rios in August 2013. His career line of .188./.225/.237 and 31 percent strikeout rate leaves one starving for optimism. He’s struggled to hit through a vast majority of his minor league career, but has been fine at Triple-A during his stints there the last two seasons. Now 26, the chances of him being a major league contributor are slim.
May is a bit more of an enigma. The 25-year-old has also struggled with the bat throughout his career, and went .266/.309/.352 in 321 plate appearances during his first go at Triple-A a year ago. But at the very least, his glove should play, and the White Sox apparently couldn’t ignore the way he’s hit this spring. In fact, both Garcia and May have done almost identically well, with the former hitting .339/.355/.424 and the latter .339/.361/.525. It’s impossible to overstate how little spring stats matter — May put up similar numbers a year ago before his lackluster Triple-A season — but the difference, of course, is that the White Sox have far less at stake this time around. So long as the White Sox are confident May can handle the successes or likely failures that come with a major league job, it’s a shot worth taking.
The smart money is on neither Garcia nor May being major league contributors at any point. Garcia is a non-prospect and May is heading down that road — he’s not mentioned anywhere in Baseball Prospectus’ system write-up and is ranked No. 26 in the White Sox system by MLBPipeline.com. Likewise, while Tilson’s health has been a concern since virtually the first moment he donned a White Sox uniform, it’s entirely possible he’s back in the mix within a few weeks and one or both are back in the minors.
But in a season that was lost before it started, there are worse decisions that can be made than giving the likes of those two opportunities ahead of 29-year-old journeymen.
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